By Spy Uganda Correspondent
King Charles has hosted a celebration of Ugandan Asians who fled to the UK 50 years ago.
It was the King’s first major engagement to take place at Buckingham Palace since royal mourning ended following the death of the Queen.
At the time the government had welcomed around 28,000 Ugandan Asians with British passports to start a new life in the UK.
The event was staged by The British Asian Trust which was founded in 2007 by King Charles III and a group of British Asian business leaders to tackle widespread poverty, inequality and injustice in South Asia.
Rizwan Rahemtulla, who fled Uganda with his family when he was just four said: “It was a special moment for me and a special moment to share with everybody else who also went through the same trauma… to celebrate the fact that it was England who opened their arms to us.”
It was also a chance to reflect on the importance of welcoming refugees seeking safe haven, he added.
“The British way is let’s welcome people with open arms, let’s help them and support them, help to integrate. And you know what, they will in time also be part of the British fabric.” Veteran broadcaster John Snow co-hosted the palace reception alongside successful Ugandan business leaders and charities, in a ceremony of recollection, readings and music to mark the 50-year milestone.
Snow reported on Ugandan dictator Idi Amin’s decision to expel around 80,000 Asians in 1972.
He told the guests: “The expulsion of the Asian population was a traumatic, murderous experience for those affected and it also devastated Uganda’s economy.
“Today we bask in what Uganda was deprived of, an innovative and dedicated population of motivated people who’ve done so much to boost our own economy and our own well-being.
“Uganda’s loss has proved Britain’s incomparable gain.”Actor and comedian Sanjeev Bhaskar attended the event and praised the monarch for his “acknowledgement, encouragement and affection” for the British Asian community which has been “unsurpassed”.
He went on to poke fun at the King’s relationship with new Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, whose Hindu parents of Indian Punjabi descent grew up in southeast Africa.
In a light-hearted reference to The King’s weekly audiences with Mr Sunak he said: “Although that was before he had to meet one every week, the same man every week.”
He joked about an imaginary Asian auntie who the King could call on if the Prime Minister was a “little bit naughty”. The audience laughed he imagined a “secret cabal of Asian women of a certain age who could have a word in his ear – I like to call them the illuminati”.
Lord Sentamu, the former Archbishop of York, who was a lawyer working in Uganda at the time, and spoke out against Amin, told the guests Britain’s Ugandan Asians were “one of the great successes and a tremendous asset to this country”.
Snow said the King enjoyed the moment when the guest gave him a “good blast” of the Ugandan national anthem.
Speaking about the contribution of Ugandan Asians he added: “If you think how historically recent this was – the impact they’ve had on the British economy is absolutely incredible.”